Thursday, 10 December 2009

FACTUAL REVIEW: Mary Tudor - Anna Whitelock


Mary Tudor was the first woman to be crowned queen of England. Her accession, in the summer of 1553, took place against the odds and it was, in many ways, emblematic of her life. Anna Whitelock's assured, impassioned and absorbing debut tells the remarkable story of a woman who was a princess one minute, feted by the courts of Europe, and a disinherited bastard the next. It tells of her Spanish heritage, the unbreakable bond between Mary and her mother (Katherine of Aragon), her childhood, her adolescence, her rivalry with her sister Elizabeth, and finally her womanhood. It explores the formative experiences that made Mary the determined and single-minded queen she became. She had fought to survive, fought to preserve her integrity and her right to hear the Catholic mass, and finally she fought for the throne. As queen of England, Mary retained her tenacity. She married Philip of Spain against much opposition and struggled passionately to restore Catholicism, the religion to which she had remained true all her life. Yet whilst she was brave as a queen, as a woman she was dependent and prone to anxiety. In an age when marriages were made for political and diplomatic advantage, Mary married a man she truly loved but whom did not share her passion. It is this tension between Mary's dominance as queen and her tragedy as a woman that is crucial to understanding her reign. Her private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses and unrequited love were played out in the public glare of the fickle Tudor court. The Mary that emerges is not the weak-willed failure of traditional narratives, but a complex figure of immense courage, determination and humanity. Anna Whitelock's biography is an assured, impassioned and absorbing debut.


History as they say is written by the victors, yet in most timelines of history, there are documents that survive that contradict the official record. Here in her biography of Mary Tudor, Whitelock brings the hidden evidence to the fore to give the reader a more rounded look at Mary as opposed to the commonly accepted view of just a religious murderer. Whilst this isn’t the easiest text to read it’s fascinating and will appeal to those with an interest in the Tudors as well as the Golden Age of Britain as you get to learn about her childhood and informative years as to events that shaped her into the woman to come. We also get to delve into her marriage, her friendships and above all her time on the throne. Historically interesting, fascinating from the readers point of view and the chance for the viewer to “meet” a more even handed view of this Queen.

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